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South Bank's Huge New Performing Arts Theatre Will Feature a Major Piece of First Nations Public Art

The new venue will add a fifth theatre to QPAC, making it the largest performing arts centre in Australia.
By Sarah Ward
June 08, 2022
By Sarah Ward
June 08, 2022

Brisbane's cultural scene has been calling out for a new performing arts venue for years, to help stop the city being bypassed by big shows, gigs and tours that make their way down south but give Queensland a miss. Thankfully, since 2018, a fifth theatre at South Bank's Queensland Performing Arts Centre has been in the works. It's still currently under construction, but it'll now give Brissie another gift when it does open its doors: a brand-new major piece of First Nations public art.

Submissions are currently being accepted for a new commission to sit in the theatre's external entry forecourt, with sharing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander arts and cultures the key aim.

"It is anticipated the public artwork will respond to the new theatre's location on a stretch of the Brisbane River around Kurilpa Point that has been a traditional meeting place for the Aboriginal people of Brisbane," said Queensland Minister for the Arts Leeanne Enoch, opening the call for expressions of interest.

Three artists will be selected to then submit concept designs. "These selected artists, in a paid competition process, will each work alongside First Nations art and design consultant Blaklash Creative and public art specialists UAP to develop a site-specific artwork," the Minister said.

If you're wondering exactly what's envisaged, the piece could include "freestanding sculptural elements, wall or ground painting, etchings or sand blasting," the Minister also advised. Whatever it incorporates, it'll give the new theatre — and Brisbane — a permanent, site-specific public artwork that celebrates Australia's First Nations Peoples, and Indigenous arts and culture.

As for the theatre itself, it has been dubbed the New Performing Arts Venue (NPAV) for now, and will feature at least 1500 seats — and, obviously, will up QPAC's spread from four to five theatres. Architecture firm Blight Rayner + Snøhetta won the tender for the new venue, which is replacing the grassed area known as the Playhouse Green.

Glass features heavily in the external design, letting Brisbanites see into the transparent foyer from the corner of Grey and Russell streets. The overall look takes inspiration from the nearby Brisbane River and ties into QPAC's original heritage-listed decor, but still makes its own impression.

Costing $175 million to build, with the State Government committing $125 million to the project, the NPAV will also boast two new studio spaces below street level, which'll also be visible from the outside spaces. As far as the main space goes, it'll include a single-balcony auditorium. Expect it to be busy, hosting around 260 performances and welcoming approximately 300,000 per year.

When it does lift the curtain, NPAV will herald a huge change to the South Bank spot. QPAC first launched to Brisbanites in 1985 after ten years of development, and thousands of performances — more than 26,000 in 2019, when the NPAV's designs were released — have graced its stages and spaces years since then.

QPAC's New Performing Arts Venue is currently under construction, and is set to open at QPAC, on the corner of Grey and Russell streets, in the near future. We'll update you with exact opening details when they're announced. For further information in the interim, visit the project website.

Published on June 08, 2022 by Sarah Ward
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